Hotels that have cultivated sustainable food practices are discovering that what is good for the planet also can be good for business and the surrounding community.
The burden on the Earth’s food supply is at an all-time high, and the hospitality industry has responded by implementing best practices that improve use of natural resources, such as sourcing sustainable seafood, purchasing locally grown fruit and vegetables in season, and planting on-property gardens.
For example, Hilton Worldwide is taking a country-by-country approach to eliminate shark fin from all restaurants across its portfolio. As of April 1, its 96 owned and managed properties in the Asia Pacific no longer serve shark fin dishes. The demand for shark fin is a major cause of the decline in shark populations in the region.
“In placing a global ban on shark fin, we take action in support of environmental conservation efforts worldwide and progress our efforts in responsible business operations,” stated Martin Rinck, president, Asia Pacific, Hilton Worldwide.
On the other side of the globe in Ithaca, N.Y., you’ll find staff at The Statler Hotel working directly with hotel chefs and the director of purchasing to craft menus that incorporate seafood acceptable within the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch ranking system. Sustainable food practices have become a customer expectation as well as an opportunity for The Statler Hotel to differentiate its services, according to Richard D. Adie, general manager.
“People have either the desire to be eating healthier with more organic foods or recognize that the flavor profiles of some local foods are superior,” Adie said. “It is truly an exciting and delicious time in the local and sustainable food movement.”
With more than 400 farms within a 40-mile radius of the hotel, an abundance of local produce is available during the summer and fall, which made picking sustainable suppliers difficult. One of the hotel’s key successes has been its partnership with master food purveyor Maines Food to assist in this process.
Maines selected local farmers and worked with them to obtain Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) and Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification from a third party. The purveyor also backhauls the majority of local produce on its trucks after making daily deliveries. Reducing empty miles lessens the trucks’ environmental toll and helps regulate the cold chain for better shelf life and quality, Adie said.
A challenge to the hotel’s commitment to local products is the area’s long winters and lack of selection because many nearby farmers focus on the same produce, such as summer squash. Maines has suggested ways for the farmers to diversify and add more specialized produce, like zebra beets, that will allow the hotel to expand its menu.
The farm-to-table movement also is taking hold in Denver, so making the commitment to source local or organic products was a natural choice for the Brown Palace, according to Brenna St. Onge, assistant director of rooms and chair of the sustainability committee. While going green eventually can save money, she emphasized that it’s important to plan for startup costs and establish purchasing preferences and priorities.